150 B- POLEVOI
now imbandaged and healing up. The more lively his
correspondence with Anyuta became, and the more close-
ly he became acquainted with her university affairs, the
more critically did he scrutinise his scorched and disfi-
gured face. In the twilight, or in the dimly-lit ward, it did
not look so bad, it looked good, in fact: fine features, a
high forehead and a short, slightly ^hooked nose, short
black moustache that he had grown in the hospital, and
fresh, stubborn, youthful lips. But in a bright light it
could be seen that his face was covered with scars around
which the skin was drawn tight. Whenever he got excit-
ed, or came back flushed from his bath treatment, these
scars made him look hideous, and examining himself in
the mirror at such a moment, he was ready to weep. In
an endeavour to console him, Meresyev said:
"What are you moping for? You are not going to be
a screen actor, are you? If that girl of yours is genuine,
it won't make any difference to her. If it does, it shows
that she is a fool. In that case, tell her to go to hell.
A good riddance. You'll find one of the real sort."
"All women are alike," interjected Kukushkin.
"What about your mother?" asked the Commissar.
Kukushfcin was the only man in the ward whom he
addressed in the formal way.
It is difficult to describe the effect this calm question
produced on the lieutenant. He sprang up in his bed, his
eyes flashing fiercely and his face turning whiter than a
"There you are! So you see that there are some good
women in the world," said the Commissar in a concilia-
tory tone. "Why do you think Grisha won't be lucky?
That's what happens in life: the seeker always finds."
In short, the entire ward became reanimated. The
Commissar was the only one whose condition steadily
grew worse. He was kept alive with morphine and cam-
phor, and sometimes, as a result of this, he would toss
restlessly about in his bed for whole days in a semi-
drugged condition. After Stepan Ivanovich's departure
he seemed to sink more rapidly. Meresyev requested that
his bed be shifted closer to the Commissar's so as to be
able to help him if need be. He felt drawn more and
more to this man.